Summer feeding

Published: 2024-02-19

During the summer, rising temperatures can significantly affect the well-being and performance of your pigs. While many animals can regulate their body temperature through sweating and increased breathing, pigs are particularly susceptible to heat stress due to their limited ability to sweat.

Heat stress symptoms

During periods of high temperatures, especially when combined with high humidity, pigs can often show signs of discomfort and reduced productivity. These signs indicate heat stress and are easy to recognize.

  • Excessive panting and open-mouth breathing
  • Increased water consumption
  • Reduced feed intake leads to decreased daily gain (larger pigs experience greater growth reduction)
  • Decreased activity
  • Seeking cooler areas within the barn
  • Elevated body temperature (above normal range)
  • Muscle tremors 
  • Diarrhoea

Nutritionist, Pigs
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Additionally, for lactating sows, specific signs of heat stress may include decreased milk production and signs of mastitis (inflammation of the udder).
Monitoring these signs is crucial to detect and manage heat stress promptly, ensuring the health and welfare of your herd.

Heat stress in pigs and following detrimental effects on productivity ultimately impacting financial outcomes. The increased heat generated during the feeding and digestion process exacerbates the situation.

One major concern is the potential decrease in feed intake, leading to reduced daily gain, higher feed conversion rates, and diminished milk yield in lactating sows.

To mitigate the adverse effects of high temperatures on pigs, Vilomix recommends below feeding and management tips.

Risk of heat stress depends on temperature and humidity levels
(Picture adapted from Xin and Harmon, 1998)

Ambient temperature influence on ADG of growing-finishing pigs.
(D.Renaudeau et al.,2011)

To mitigate the adverse effects of high temperatures on pigs, Vilomix recommends the following measures:

Feeding tips

Use feed formulations specially designed for hot periods:

  • Increase the energy concentration in the feed so the pigs achieve the same energy uptake with less feed intake
  • Add betaine to the mineral mixture. Betaine is a vitamin-like substance that regulates the animals' fluid metabolism in the body. Betaine is widely used in herds in the Southern and Eastern part of Europe, where the summer temperatures often reach 35-40 °C.
  • Reduce the fiber content – eg. by decreasing the sugar beet pulp
  • Reduce the protein level
  • Use additives that increase palatability and antioxidants – contact Vilomix feeding specialist for advice.

Water supply tips

Provide enough and cold drinking water

Make sure that the number of drinking cups/nipples is adequate for the number of pigs (maximum 10 pigs/nipple and maximum 15 pigs/cup)

Check if nipples/cups provide sufficient amounts of water

Management tips

  • Move the feeding time to early morning or to the evening
  • Increase the feeding frequency
  • Do not increase the stocking density - animals need more place to cool down
  • Check the ventilation/increase the air flow
  • Use sprinkler systems for cooling

Any questions?

Please contact our Vilomix nutritionists.

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